Chicago @ St. Louis
The Rams return from their Week 11 bye with a predictable if largely effective to-date offensive approach: Smack their opponent in the mouth with the run. Since taking over as St. Louis' feature back six games ago, Zac Stacy has 533 yards and three touchdowns on 128 carries. He's caught 15 passes. Over a full 16-game schedule, Stacy's stats would extrapolate to 382 touches, 1,691 yards, and 11 all-purpose scores. For perspective, Doug Martin finished his 2012 rookie year with 368 touches, 1,926 yards, and 12 TDs. Stacy is an RB1 against Chicago's pathetic run defense. Since Week 6, Alfred Morris/Roy Helu, washed-up Brandon Jacobs, Eddie Lacy/James Starks, Reggie Bush, and dead-legged Ray Rice have combined to paste the depleted Bears for 668 yards and eight TDs on 119 runs (5.61 YPC). Adding injury to insult, Chicago is now without run-clogging NT Stephen Paea (toe). ... Kellen Clemens' target distribution on the year: Chris Givens 18; Jared Cook 16; Stacy 13; Lance Kendricks 9; Austin Pettis and Tavon Austin 8; Brian Quick 5; Daryl Richardson 2. ... Despite Givens and Cook's reasonably high target counts, neither has cleared 60 receiving yards since Week 2. Givens and Cook do both possess big-play potential, but week in and week out the odds are against them realizing it with Clemens at the controls.
Before the bye, Austin broke out for 138 receiving yards and three all-purpose touchdowns in a Week 10, 38-8 rout of Indianapolis. Austin's receiving scores came on just three targets, while the third came via a 98-yard punt return. OC Brian Schottenheimer had the off week to dissect his previously ineffective usage of "Tavon Awesome," who is easily St. Louis' most explosive skill-position player. Austin has a chance to make stretch-run noise if the Rams commit to him as a major offensive piece. If St. Louis keeps using Tavon as it did before the open date, he'll go back to being essentially worthless in fantasy leagues. He's a boom-or-bust WR3 against the Bears, though ultimately I'd lean toward starting him. ... Red-zone specialist Pettis played a season-low 15 snaps against the Colts, appearing to be weeded out in favor of Quick (23 snaps), Austin (15), and Stedman Bailey (7), the former of whom got the Week 10 start. There's no telling how Schotty will distribute playing time following the rest week, but this is an obvious fantasy situation to avoid in Week 12. Keep an eye on talented Quick and rookie Bailey if you're in a Dynasty league.
Through four appearances in relief of Jay Cutler, Josh McCown has completed 61-of-101 passes (60.4%) for 754 yards (7.47 YPA), and a 5:0 TD-to-INT ratio. Getting rid of the football quickly in Quarterback Whisperer Marc Trestman's timing-based passing offense, McCown is playing in a manner that can minimize St. Louis' defensive strengths. The Rams bring edge heat via LE Chris Long (6.5 sacks) and RE Robert Quinn (12.0), but are vulnerable in second- and third-level pass coverage when the rush isn't getting home. St. Louis allows the NFL's seventh highest completion rate (65.7) and eighth highest passer rating (93.0) to enemy quarterbacks. View McCown as a top-end QB2 with some QB1 streamer appeal indoors at the Edward Jones Dome. ... The Rams are still weakest versus the run. DC Tim Walton's unit ranks 18th in run defense and has coughed up 11 rushing touchdowns through ten games. Only the Jags, Bills, and Saints have surrendered more 20-plus-yard runs than St. Louis. After blistering Baltimore's top-11 run defense for 125 total yards and a score last week, Matt Forte is a cinch top-five fantasy running back play in Week 12.
McCown's target distribution: Brandon Marshall 32; Alshon Jeffery 28; Forte 17; Martellus Bennett 13; Earl Bennett 6; Marquess Wilson 2; Michael Bush 1. ... Marshall remains a WR1 despite the theoretical quarterback downgrade. Noteworthy wideout stat lines given up by St. Louis' leaky secondary this season: Golden Tate 5-93-2; Justin Blackmon 5-136-1; Cecil Shorts 5-74-1; Larry Fitzgerald 8-80-2; Anquan Boldin 5-90-1; Dez Bryant 4-38-1; Julio Jones 11-182-1; Steve Smith 5-69-1; Andre Johnson 7-88; T.Y. Hilton 7-130. ... Jeffery has maintained WR2 value in the absence of Cutler. McCown peppered Jeffery with a team-high 11 targets in last Sunday's overtime win over Baltimore, and Jeffery secured seven for 83 yards. Start Jeffery every week. ... Martellus is a dicier Week 12 fantasy bet. His stats in the three games this year where McCown has attempted at least 20 throws: 2-48, 4-36, and 1-7-1. St. Louis is 29th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Bears 24, Rams 20
Tampa Bay @ Detroit
The Bucs opened Week 11 against the Falcons seeking to establish a "hot hand" by giving Bobby Rainey and Brian Leonard six early-game touches apiece. When Rainey clearly demonstrated superior first-quarter effectiveness, Tampa tabbed him as its feature back. Rainey went on to total 167 yards and three touchdowns on 32 touches, while Leonard finished with 37 yards on eight ball-handling chances. I was impressed by the Bucs' run game as a unit. Tampa's offensive line consistently sprung Rainey onto the second level, where he flashed tackle-breaking ability and quick feet to add yardage to runs. He reminded me of Ahmad Bradshaw. I'd be excited to fire up Rainey as a low-end RB2/flex with upside for more in Week 12. Detroit is quietly playing top-five run defense, but Rainey is a good bet for 20-plus touches behind increasingly superb run blocking. Don't forget: This same Bucs front five paved the way for Mike James to torch the Seahawks -- in Seattle -- for 158 yards on 28 carries (5.64 YPC) in Week 9. ... Expect Leonard to serve more as a fullback and third-down pass protector against a talented if underachieving Lions pass rush. In fantasy football, Leonard can be treated as no more than a low-ceiling handcuff.
Mike Glennon has completed 130 of his last 203 attempts (64.0%) for 1,342 yards and a 10:2 TD-to-INT ratio. Although he is generally utilized as a game manager, Glennon is playing efficiently enough to be squarely on two-quarterback-league radars in this date with Detroit's bottom-three pass defense. Despite limited mobility, Glennon has yet to take more than three sacks in any of his seven starts. ... Glennon's target distribution on the year: Vincent Jackson 84; Tim Wright 31; Leonard 25; Tiquan Underwood 19; Chris Owusu 7; Tom Crabtree 6; Rainey 3. ... Enemy No. 1 receiver stats versus the Lions over their last five games: Antonio Brown 7-147-2; Dez Bryant 3-72-2; Brandon Marshall 7-139-2; A.J. Green 6-155-1; Josh Gordon 7-126. V-Jax has a mouth-watering matchup. ... Underwood has made three starts since Mike Williams landed on I.R., registering box-score lines of 2-29-1, 3-64, and 1-20. He's waiver fodder in standard leagues. ... The Lions have permitted the seventh fewest fantasy points to tight ends, giving fading Wright an unfavorable Week 12 matchup. Wright has seen just three targets over the past two weeks, and his snaps are inexplicably down as well. Perhaps the Bucs are dialing back their usage of Wright due to increased reliance on fullbacks and blocking-oriented two-tight end "jumbo" formations.
Last week's league-wide weather scare is a reminder that starting fantasy players indoors should always be viewed as a positive during the winter months. This game will be played at domed Ford Field, where Detroit's top-four passing offense meets Tampa Bay's 18th-ranked pass defense. The Bucs will be without FS Dashon Goldson due to a one-game suspension for illegal hits. ... Matthew Stafford has a 13:5 TD-to-INT ratio over his last five games, adding a 14th score on a scramble. Dating back to Week 6, the Bucs have been picked apart by Nick Foles, receiver-depleted Matt Ryan (twice), Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill for a combined 130-of-193 passing (67.4%), 1,490 yards (7.72 YPA), and a 14:5 TD-to-INT ratio, with three more scores on quarterback runs. This is a plus matchup for Stafford in an ideal environment. He's a top-five QB1. ... Reggie Bush's fantasy owners are understandably frustrated after his Week 11 in-game benching for a lost fumble, but need to shake off the clunker and start him versus Tampa Bay. Bush continues to play at an extremely high level -- he's gained 228 yards on his last 47 carries (4.85 YPC) -- and the Lions need their run-game centerpiece to have any chance of staying atop the NFC North. Bush's importance is bolstered by Joique Bell's foot injury. Although the Bucs are playing top-nine run defense this season, Bush remains a locked-and-loaded RB1.
Stafford's target distribution over his last five games: Calvin Johnson 68, Kris Durham 37, Bush 31, Brandon Pettigrew 27, Joique Bell 12, Joseph Fauria 11, Jeremy Ross 9. ... The Bucs have been stifling opposing No. 1 wideouts since deciding to use Darrelle Revis in more press-man coverage three weeks ago. They've held Golden Tate (3-29), Mike Wallace (4-15), and Roddy White (3-36-1) in check. Johnson is a different animal, of course, and there are ways for Lions playcaller Scott Linehan to scheme him away from Revis, using "man-beating" stack and bunch concepts, and putting Megatron in pre-snap motion. Calvin can never be benched. ... Assuming Nate Burleson (arm) returns this week -- he's expected to -- he will throw a wrench into the fantasy stock of Durham. Burleson plays the slot in three-wide sets, where the Bucs are having a world of trouble in coverage. Opposing slot receiver stats versus Tampa the past three weeks: Doug Baldwin 6-75-1; Rishard Matthews 11-120-2; Harry Douglas 6-134-1. Douglas also unloaded on the Bucs for 7-140-1 in Week 7. Make sure Burleson is active on Sunday morning, and consider him a plug-and-play PPR WR3 if so. ... The Buccaneers are 20th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, giving Pettigrew a below-average matchup. With just one touchdown and one game over 60 yards on his 2013 resume, Pettigrew is unworthy of a Week 12 streamer start.
Score Prediction: Lions 27, Bucs 17
4:05PM ET Games
Tennessee @ Oakland
27th in the NFL in pass attempts, the Titans approach most every game with a run-based mindset and will likely stay with that approach in Sunday's trip to the Black Hole. Chris Johnson has 298 yards and four touchdowns on his last 59 carries (5.05 YPC), and has peeled off some of his most aggressive, physical runs since 2010 over his last three games. Whereas Pro Football Focus credited Johnson with just two broken tackles in Weeks 2-7 combined, Johnson has busted six in Weeks 9-11. His yards after contact have spiked dramatically. Johnson can be as good as he wants to be. Oakland is playing top-six run defense, but Johnson is an every-week RB2 when he's running like he is now. ... Since the Titans' Week 8 bye, Shonn Greene is averaging 8.3 touches for 36 yards per game. The impact of Greene's return from an early-season knee injury has been to seemingly light a fire in previously-uninspired CJ?K. Lacking flex value, Greene is a mere handcuff in 12-team leagues. ... Streaming Ryan Fitzpatrick as a QB1 is never recommended, but his matchup is favorable enough for mid-range QB2 appeal and locked-in starter status in two-quarterback leagues. The Raiders' No. 25 pass defense has allowed enemy signal callers to compile a 19:7 TD-to-INT ratio and 98.1 passer rating, the seventh highest clip in the league.
Fitzpatrick's 2013 target distribution: Kendall Wright 39; Delanie Walker 28; Nate Washington 20; Johnson 16; Justin Hunter 12; Kenny Britt and Damian Williams 8. ... Wright's stat lines in Fitz's four games of extensive play: 7-78, 5-69; 6-74; 9-80. Wright has led Tennessee in targets in each of those games and is a legit WR2 in PPR. Because Wright hasn't been a touchdown scorer and averages a modest 11.2 yards per reception, he's a WR3 in standard leagues. ... Walker has been the Titans' No. 2 pass-game option with Fitzpatrick under center, stringing together back-to-back box scores of 4-62-1 and 10-91-1. Now facing a Raiders defense that Garrett Graham creamed for 136 yards and a touchdown last Sunday, Walker has vaulted squarely into the back-end TE1 mix. Particularly with fellow possession target Williams nursing a quad injury, I'd start Walker over Charles Clay, Tim Wright, Rob Housler, John Carlson, and Brandon Pettigrew this week. ... Washington has topped 62 yards in 2-of-10 games and scored a touchdown in 1-of-10. Even in plus matchups, he hasn't been productive enough for WR3 consideration. ... Keep an eye on Hunter down the stretch. As the Titans' season unravels, the coaching staff may look to get its promising second-rounder more action. Hunter has flashed explosive ability on limited snaps.
Undrafted rookie Matt McGloin deserves a lot of credit for going to Reliant Stadium last week and throwing three touchdown passes with just two sacks taken against Texans DC Wade Phillips' blitz-heavy defense. McGloin faces another aggressive defensive mind this week in Tennessee's Gregg Williams, whose unit ranks No. 7 versus the pass with a league-low seven passing scores allowed. Raiders No. 1 receiver Denarius Moore is nursing a shoulder injury, and Tennessee CBs Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty are both in the midst of career-best seasons. McGloin is a low-end two-quarterback-league option in Week 12. ... Despite McGloin's Week 11 success, the Raiders remain a run-based team with Rashad Jennings emerging as their offensive centerpiece. Jennings has an attractive matchup against a Titans defense that ranks 20th versus the run and has permitted 15 rushing touchdowns, tied with Washington and Jacksonville for most in the NFL. Averaging 22.7 touches over his last three games, Jennings is a high-end RB2 option versus Tennessee. The Raiders' coaching staff has been so pleased with Jennings' every-down work that he will likely remain Oakland's starting tailback when Darren McFadden (hamstring) returns.
McGloin's target distribution through two NFL appearances (one start): Moore 9; Rod Streater 8; Jennings 7; Mychal Rivera 6; Marcel Reece and Jacoby Ford 5; Juron Criner and Andre Holmes 3; Nick Kasa 1. ... Moore is tentatively expected to miss Week 12, forcing May waiver claim Holmes into the starting lineup. Holmes goes 6-foot-4, 210 and ran a 4.45 forty at his 2011 Pro Day coming out of tiny Hillsdale. He's worth Hail Mary WR3 consideration in 14- and 16-team leagues. ... Streater projects as Oakland's target leader against the Titans' stout secondary. A possession receiver, Streater can be used as bye-week filler coming off of a 6-84-1 line against the Texans. ... Rivera had been incredibly quiet before McGloin rejuvenated him in Week 11, as the rookie tight end secured 5-of-6 targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. The Titans are allowing the eighth most fantasy points to tight ends. Rivera is a higher-than-normal TE2 this week. On the season, he's playing a respectable 61.7% of the Raiders' offensive snaps. ... Playcaller Greg Olson seems to have very little interest in forcing the football to fullback Reece. Reece's six touches against Houston were a single-game high since Week 5. He gained 23 scoreless yards.
Friday Update: Moore has been ruled out for Week 12, thrusting wild card Holmes into the starting lineup and elevating Streater into Oakland's top wideout role against Tennessee's stingy pass defense.
Score Prediction: Titans 21, Raiders 17